(Credit: Unsplash)
Knowing whether you need a business coach is half the battle. (Credit: Unsplash)


As a small business owner, I wish I could share a story about a time I successfully worked with a business coach. However, I had an unusual entrance into entrepreneurship. I bought MyCorporation out of Intuit in 2009. Some aspects of the company did need changes once it was under new leadership, but I was fortunate in that I didn’t start the business from the ground up. I had a few mentors, but I didn’t need to hire a business coach.

My situation, of course, was a unique one. Many startups and small business owners do benefit from the guidance provided by a business coach. Hiring a business coach, like all business investments, should be strategic. How do you know which type of coach is the best fit for your business? What kinds of services should they be able to offer their clients? What about their reputation? How do you know you’re working with the real deal? Here’s what entrepreneurs should thoroughly understand before they decide to hire, and work with, a business coach.

When is it time to hire a business coach?

Nearly every business coach I reached out to for this piece agreed that the best time for entrepreneurs to hire a business coach is when you feel stuck.

Hannah Attewell is a success and business coach at Force of Nature Coach. She has also spent eight years running her own wedding photography business. Attewell says she started looking for coaching when she hit an income wall. Regardless of the number of inquiries or bookings Attewell got, she always seemed to end up earning the same amount. She started looking for coaching as a means to get past the wall and discovered coaching gave her the insight and confidence to be bold in her industry and move beyond its standards.

Income aside, Jennifer Davis recommends hiring a business coach when you feel struck in any area of your professional life. Davis is an executive leadership coach and the founder of Jennifer Davis Coaching, where she’s a firm believer that no leader has to do it alone.

“Many people who start their own companies are excited about their product and moving the business forward,” Davis explains, “However, they are often unfamiliar with the challenges that arise once the business expands. You could be struggling with next steps for a business plan, figuring out growth, or how to step into a different type of leadership role. A good coach can help you navigate unfamiliar territories. They help you see when increased personnel are needed, or simply work with you to change your mindset, behavior, or policies.”

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What kinds of services do reliable business coaches offer?

This may be a tough pill for some entrepreneurs to swallow, but the best business coaches aren’t here to give you all the answers to your startup’s problems. What they do, according to Davis, is help entrepreneurs get to the root of what is holding them back.

For example, let’s imagine you came to a coach to find a solution to a conflict management situation involving several colleagues. The business coach should not jump straight to resolving the problem. Instead, they should be curious and ask why this particular issue is so challenging for you.

Davis recommends seeking out business coaches that possess the following traits and services.

  • Curiosity. This is mentioned above, but a good business coach should see you as a whole person.
  • Business experience. Your business coach should have experience in the business world and training in coaching. Davis also advises looking for coaches with teaching experience in terms of leadership development. This allows business coaches to help you arrive at solutions once you have awareness of what the problem really is.
  • Direct. A great business coach pushes entrepreneurs to hear feedback they need to grow as leaders. They’re not afraid to push you outside of your comfort zone to make transformational changes, and are also accountable so results are seen.
  • A sense of humor. Davis reminds entrepreneurs that while business coaching is hard work, it doesn’t need to be boring. You can find a coach that helps you grow — and makes you laugh.

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How Do I Find A Great Business Coach?

You know you’re ready for a business coach and understand the kinds of offerings they should possess in the role. Now, it’s time to find them. How do you know you’ve found a reputable coach?

One of the first aspects to check on any business coach are their credentials. Davis says to check out their testimonials and referrals. If possible, she says to speak to current or past clients. This will allow you to better see the impact their coaching has had on the client.

Susan Power, founder and CEO of Power HR Inc., recommends seeking individuals that are certified International Coach Federation coaches. The ICF credential, considered the gold standard in coaching, is awarded to those who meet certain standards.

When interviewing a potential business coach, Power also recommends asking them if they currently work alongside a coach of their own. Power says beware if the answer is no. “This is a red flag,” she explains, “It shows the business coach is not focused on their own development.”

Leigh Bridges, founder of Atlas Vision Works LLC, urges entrepreneurs not to pick the first business coach they come across. “You’ll need to interview them to make sure their approach and style are a good match to yours,” Bridges advises, or else it won’t be a proper fit.

What Happens After You’ve Found The Perfect Business Coach?

The learning process begins and, according to Attewell, this is a collaboration between the business coach and entrepreneur. “You will get out what you put in,” she says.

When you meet with your coach, bring a healthy attitude when it comes to constructive criticism and be willing to put in hard work. By doing this, Attewell says, entrepreneurs will get more out of the process than if they expect the coach to fix everything for them.

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Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com which provides online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, startup bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent services, DBAs, and trademark and copyright filing services. You can find MyCorporation on Twitter at @MyCorporation.